You didn’t have to look very hard to find a prediction that said the Phoenix Suns were going to struggle this season.
After winning 25 games the season before, the team was expected to be as bad — and possibly worse — as it began a new era with Ryan McDonough as general manager and Jeff Hornacek as head coach.
Yet, the Suns have not been bad this season. They’ve been good. Quite good.
Twenty-three games into the campaign they are 14-9. Currently riding a five-game winning streak, Hornacek said the key was entering the season with the right mindset.
“I think we went into the season just saying hey, let’s just play hard,” he told Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning. “Nobody’s expecting anything, but if we play hard and play together we have talent on this team and we feel that we can at least compete and have a chance to win games.”
Hornacek acknowledged that it’s tough for players to play hard every single night, as there are bound to be off nights during the course of an 82-game season.
But, he said, his players have found a way to bring it most every night, and the early wins have led to surge in confidence.
“They feel they can play with anybody,” he said, noting some of the close losses suffered earlier in the season helped the team believe it can win games. “Still did wonders for our team in terms of confidence. It’s a good start.”
It’s a start that the coach admitted is a bit of surprise to him. It’s not that he didn’t think there was talent on the roster, but rather he felt like with so many new faces it would take a little longer to come together.
“But we felt that we would be competitive and we’d have lots of chances to win,” he said. “Our guys are doing a great job of now finishing games.
“We struggled a little bit early but as of late the finishing of games is getting better.”
Hornacek said it all goes back to how hard the team plays, along with the fact that the players get along well and enjoy playing with one another. Teamwork was a point of emphasis, he added.
“Once guys start doing it, then they’re happy for their teammates,” he said. “It becomes all about winning. It’s out of the individual thoughts. We have the big teamwork sign right as we leave our locker room here, and they’ve all bought into it.”